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Having Tough Conversations

Being a leader isn’t always fun and exciting. There will be those times where you have to have serious conversations to address concerns that are impacting the work environment. In my last blog I talked about focusing on the positive, while you should always continue to do this, you also need to address any problems that may arise right away.

This area has been a struggle of mine. I hate feeling like the bad guy or the bearer of bad news but when it comes down to it is something that has to be done. The first few times I had to sit down and have a serious conversation I felt that I was not consistent with every person I spoke with. I was worried about what kind of message that would send to my team so what I did was researched some easy ways to have the tough conversations. This way I could keep it simple and consistent with everyone I spoke with.

The tool that I found most useful was from About.com written by Susan M. Heathfeld:

Steps to Provide Feedback in a Difficult Conversation

  • Seek permission to provide the feedback. Even if you are the employee’s boss, start by stating you have some feedback you’d like to share. Ask if it’s a good time or if the employee would prefer to select another time and place. (Within reason, of course.)
  • Use a soft entry. Don’t dive right into the feedback – give the person a chance to brace for potentially embarrassing feedback. Tell the employee that you need to provide feedback that is difficult to share. If you’re uncomfortable with your role in the conversation, you might say that, too. Most people are as uncomfortable providing feedback about an individual’s personal dress or habits, as the person receiving the feedback.
  • Often, you are in the feedback role because other employees have complained to you about the habit, behavior, or dress. Do not give in to the temptation to amplify the feedback, or excuse your responsibility for the feedback, by stating that a number of coworkers have complained. This heightens the embarrassment and harms the recovery of the person receiving feedback.
  • The best feedback is straightforward and simple. Don’t beat around the bush. I am talking with you because this is an issue that you need to address for success in this organization.
  • Tell the person the impact that changing his or her behavior will have from a positive perspective. Tell the employee how choosing to do nothing will affect their career and job.
  • Reach agreement about what the individual will do to change their behavior. Set a due date – tomorrow, in some cases. Set a time frame to review progress in others.
  • Follow-up. The fact that the problem exists means that backsliding is possible; further clarification may also be necessary. Then, more feedback and possibly, disciplinary action are possible next steps.


I hope you find this information helpful. As for me, I am going to continue perfecting this process and hope to improve on my communication skills with my team.

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Moving Away From the “Gotcha” Mentality

Your boss calls you into his/her office and what is the first thing you think about? Most people would automatically think that they were in trouble. That’s because most managers focus on what you do wrong and neglect what you do right. This is called the “Gotcha” mentality because when your manager only focuses on the negative it feels like they are watching every move to catch you doing something wrong.

To be a strong and effective leader it is so important to focus on what your followers are doing right. This doesn’t mean to ignore the things they are doing wrong but if you address their performance for the things they are doing right and wrong you will have a stronger bond with your followers. Also if you leverage both types of reinforcement you will have a better balance in managing your people.

So how can you do this? The most effective way is when you see something you like from your employee, address it right away. This does not have to be a formal meeting in your office but it can be a simple compliment on the spot. Three steps should be included in the compliment: 1) State what you saw 2) Explain why you liked it and how it contributes to the overall goal 3) Thank them for the job well done. It’s important that they know how their work impacts the productivity of the job and how it relates to the end goal.

A book that I recommend that illustrates this concept effectively is “Whale Done” by Ken Blanchard. Ken uses a fictional story to illustrate how focusing more on the positive than the negative will enhance your relationships with people not only in the professional setting but in a personal setting as well. This book is a short read but it really gets you thinking about the power of positive reinforcement.

Remember relationship building does not happen overnight.  If you continue to work at it and contribute a lot of time to your people you will see positive results.

Any thoughts or comments? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!

Ken Blanchard’s Whale Done! The Power of Positive Relationships Training for Trainers

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Leadership Test Drive

When I think about leadership there is always one quote that I remember my professor saying that has stuck with me over the last few months…“The number one reason why people leave their job is because of their managers”.  So why aren’t managers focusing on ways to improve the satisfaction of their “internal customers” or employees?  I feel that the main reason is that there are a lot of managers out there that are content with their leadership styles and are not willing to explore what is out there and change. No matter what industry you are in, change is an epidemic that is going on everywhere. One thing that I have learned is that being able to adapt to change and always being prepared to change is a strong quality of a leader.

I have become so fascinated with leadership and all of the different styles and approaches that are being used today. Since I’m still a fairly new leader I decided to take this time to test out different theories and strategies to see what works and what does not work for me. I have recently been assigned to be one of the leaders for a new team of 18 people so I thought what a great opportunity to practice what I have learned with new people. I welcome this new challenge and believe that it will help me develop into a stronger leader.

I’ll be blogging about strategies that I have been using, activities that I have been implementing and the stories of success and failure that come along with it. I don’t expect that everything that is going to go smoothly or to get immediate results but I know this will really help me in learning who I want to be as a leader. This will be a really humbling experience and I’m looking forward to seeing the results!

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